wcfsymphony Principal oboe Heather Armstrong is one of the most enjoyable people we’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing! We think you’ll agree as you read her thoughts about the musical life here in northeast Iowa:
“It was important to my parents that my siblings and I study music. I started taking piano lessons in kindergarten, added clarinet in 4th grade, and fell in love with the sound of the oboe in 5th grade. I thought about pursuing all kinds of things in high school, but in the end I just couldn’t imagine my life without music as a big part of it.
“I’m currently on the faculty at Luther College in Decorah, IA. It’s a vibrant, busy place! Right now I have 16 oboe students who I see for reed making classes and weekly lessons. I teach several classes every semester as well: first-year Music Theory and Double Reed Methods (oboe and bassoon) for Music Education students. I coach some chamber music groups, advise students in the music department, attend meetings and recitals, and perform regularly on campus.
“I don’t think you can be an oboist and not enjoy playing symphonic literature! I love the repertoire. I love being part of something that is bigger than my own performance, being right in the middle of the orchestra making live music with the wonderful musicians around me.
“Some concerts I spend at least 8-10 hours outside of rehearsal learning the music; some concerts it’s less. In addition, as an oboist I make my own reeds, so a lot of my preparation time is spent making reeds to get me through the rehearsals and the performance. Sometimes that’s just a big a job as practicing and learning the music!
“Like the other arts, music has the ability to help us hear and experience the world in a new way – that’s one of the reasons I am so passionate about new music. It is a fresh way to hear. I also love the way music brings people together and helps us connect with each other in community – either through the process of rehearsing and performing, through the process of creating and collaborating on a brand new piece, or through the process of performers sharing music with a live audience. I enjoy talking with people about what they heard in a performance. Sometimes it’s very different from what I heard or experienced, so through audience members I can sometimes experience music in a new way.
“Sometimes I am amazed that this is what I do! There are so many places in this country and in the world where doing what I do is just not possible. When I’m in the middle of an exhausting week, or have more music to learn and papers to grade than I have time, I try to remember how privileged I am to be part of making music.
“Beyond my musical activities I love to be outside – walking, hiking, biking, birding. I am lucky to live in a town that has rivers, springs, waterfalls, bluffs, woods and prairies, all within walking distance from my back door!”